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Berlin’s climate neutral 2030 referendum, explained

You've seen the red and green posters, but what's are the most important things to know about Berlin's upcoming 2030 climate neutral referendum?

Poster for the Berlin 2030 Climate Neutral referendum on the Frankfurter Allee. The referendum will be held on March 26. Photo: IMAGO / A. Friedrichs

On March 26, Berlin heads to the polls again. So what’s it all about this time? The campaign Berlin Climate-Neutral 2030 is asking the city to make a significant leap forward in its climate goals, bringing net emissions to zero within the next seven years – and not 22 years as had been previously planned.

Sounds good, but am I eligible to vote?

Well, you might be. In order to take part in the referendum, you need to meet three criteria:

  • Over the age of 18
  • Registered in Berlin
  • Hold German citizenship

If that applies to you, great! If not, organisers want you to get involved anyway. This referendum will only be valid if at least 25% of eligible voters participate, so organisers are putting on a big “get out the vote” campaign – and they’re looking for as many volunteers as possible. Head here to get involved.

Where’s my ballot?

Check your mailbox! If you’re eligible to vote, you should have been sent one already – but there have been problems with Berliners not receiving their ballot papers. In fact, the organisers are already considering going to court over this issue if the referendum fails due to a lack of participation. However, if you’ve not yet received you voting slips, there is still time to order it online.

Demonstrators supporting the Berlin 2030 Climate Neutral referendum at a Fridays For Future rally. Photo: IMAGO / IPON

What would it mean if the referendum passes?

As things stand, the Berlin government has promised to reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 95% by 2045 (as compared to their levels in 1990). This referendum simply wants to bring that target forward to 2030. But there is further crucial difference. Right now, the government is only legally required to “aim” for that target. This referendum would give them a legal requirement to achieve that goal.

How much would it cost?

It’s an important question to ask, since ending our reliance on fossil fuels would cost billions of euros for a city like Berlin. But it might be better to ask the question the other way around: How much would it cost to not meet our climate goals?

The effects of climate change are being felt already – and, since we all (hopefully) agree that something needs to be done – getting an early start would likely bring job opportunities, save energy and mitigate some costs from future climate devastation. After all, we still don’t know exactly what killed all those fish in the Oder last summer, but it wouldn’t be a big surprise if low water levels and high water temperatures had something to do with it…